We didn't have a full-length mirror in the house when I was growing up. I saw my body in installments for years.
Our only mirror swung on the medicine-cabinet door in the bathroom. By balancing on the bathtub rim and doing a Flying Wallenda, I could get a really quick look at my middle. Anything else, forget it.
I just assumed that full-length mirrors were too ritzy for my family. Now I know better. My busy mother saw everything she wanted to see - or had time or energy to fix - when she bound up the leftovers each evening in sheets of aluminum foil.
I see clearly now that full-length mirrors are vastly overrated. I have yet to buy one, but this house came equipped with full-length mirrors clamped on every bedroom door. It's the house's outstanding architectural feature, according to my teenage daughter. She camps in front of the mirror. If her life isn't reflected, it isn't worth living.
"You're going to wear a hole in that mirror," I teased her the other day.
That's the kind of corny thing that my own mother taught me to say.
My daughter continued to smile at herself.
"Now tell me the truth, Mom. Does my nose look bigger if I don't have bangs?" She raked back her hair with a headband.
"Without bangs, you look exactly like your mother."
She screamed and released her bangs.
With the mirror as her audience, my daughter talks on the telephone, sings, dances, and practices her monologues for drama class. But mainly, she test-wears every stitch of clothing for the mirror before stepping out into the unmirrored world.
"I'm just practicing," she told me when I nagged her about mirror abuse.
"Practicing what?" I asked.
"Oh, hairstyles and smiling and good posture and stuff. You know, life."
I knew that what I was about to say would fall under the heading of "family legend," along with Granny's story of getting only one soda pop a year on the Fourth of July. Still, I told her anyway.
"You won't believe this, but when I was growing up in the house on Monroe Street, we didn't own a full-length mirror. When I was your age, I never saw my neck and feet together at the same time."
My daughter looked horrified. "I bet you walked around with only half your belt loops filled," she said. "Thank goodness you can see everything at once now."
I walked to the mirror and took a look at everything at once. I liked the installments better. And I really don't have time to practice, you know, life.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society